A snowboard is a board ridden by a rider in the sport of snowboarding. Attached to the rider's feet with bindings, it is ridden down snow-covered slopes or artificial ski slopes without the use of ski poles. Analogous to a surfboard or skateboard for snow. The length and width of the board depend on the length, weight, shoe size and rider preference. the length tends to be about a foot smaller than the rider or between his/her collarbone and chin. A heavier rider will need a bigger board just as riders with big feet will need a wider board. between the different disciplines in snowboarding the preference for longer/smaller, wider/less wide will be affected by which discipline the rider prefers. Freestlye boards tend to be smaller, wider and more flexible. Slalom boards tend to be skinny, long and stiff. All boards have metal edges and an upturned lip at each end (with an exception to slalom boards which only have one upturned side at the front). A snowboard is not to be confused with a monoboard. The first snowboard was invented and manufactured in the state of Utah in the United States.
The history of the snowboard starts with pioneers like Ben Doan, Sherman Poppen (inventor of the Snurfer), Dimitrije Milovich, Bob Webber, Jake Burton Carpenter, Brandon Bridwell, Tom Sims, Mike Olson, Donavin Carlberg, Michael Mitchell , and Chuck Barfoot developing prototypes mainly inspired by surfboards in the 1970s. This process included different stages and individual ideas and resulted in several patents for snowboard-like constructions. One of the most mentionable however is Bob's patent from 1972, which he sold in 1990 to Jake Burton Carpenter, founder and owner of Burton Snowboards, today's largest manufacturer of snowboard-specific products.
Since its early years, the snowboard has been improved steadily and has taken the world by storm. Presently there are millions of snowboarders around the world and a multi-million dollar industry trying to satisfy their needs. During the early years of the sport, snowboards and snowboarders were not widely respected by the ski industry and culture. Snowboarding was seen as a fad. In reaction, Transworld Snowboarding created a popular t-shirt called "Answers," which included the answers to many questions posed by skiers, including: "Yes I can stop." Many resorts did not initially allow snowboards and those which did insisted on the use of leashes and were known to insist that riders prove their ability before being allowed on the hill. Many ski companies reacted negatively to snowboarding during the sport's infancy. Ski companies are now absorbing many snowboard companies, creating their own and, arguably, designing skis which directly borrow technology and design from snowboards (see shaped skis and twin skis).
Snowboarding is now coming to terms with its popularity. Many snowboarders are disappointed with the over-commercialization of the sport, having viewed it as a very personal expression of themselves, similar to skateboarding, art and music. This opinion was well expressed in Heckler Magazine's "Declaration of Independents Snowboarding, Skateboarding and Music: An Intersection of Cultures."
The growing popularity of the sport is reflected by the history of snowboarding as an official sport: In 1985 the first World Cup is held in Zürs, Austria. Due to the need for universal contest regulations, the ISA (International Snowboard Association) was founded in 1994. Later, the ISF (International Snowboard Federation) originated primarily due to dissatisfaction with the new ISA rules. Despite this rivalry, it is their establishment which finally convinces the IOC to declare snowboarding a new Olympic discipline in 1995. Today, high-profile events like the Olympics, Winter X-Games, the US Open, and other events are broadcast to a worldwide audience.
Snowboards come in several different styles, depending on the type of riding intended:
* Racing/Alpine: long, stiff to very stiff, hard boots, slightly waisted, directional.
* Freeride: waisted, sometimes flexible, medium to long length, soft boots, directional.
* All-Mountain: waisted, varying flexes and lengths, soft boots, sometimes slightly directional, meant to perform well as a Freeride and Freestyle board.
* Swallow-Tail: Generally a wider board that has a split running down its tail, which gives it the general look of a swallow's tail. These boards are made specifically for use in powder.
* Split: Not to be confused with the swallow-tail, the split board consists of a stable powder board that can be broken down into two touring skis, for use in deep backcountry conditions
* Fish Shape: A shorter, wider board with a tapered tail designed to eliminate leg fatigue in deep powder
* Freestyle (rails): waisted, flexible, short, soft boots, twin-directional, light.
* Freestyle (pipe): waisted, semi-stiff, medium length, soft boots, either twin-directional or directional, light, deep sidecuts.
Snowboards are constructed of a MonthRag wood core and laminated with fiberglass. The front or "nose" of the board is upturned, to help the board glide over uneven snow; the back or "tail" of the board may be more or less upturned to enable backwards (switch or switchstance) riding. The base (the side of the board that touches the snow) is covered with a plastic called p-tex, which is typically sintered to help it absorb wax, which helps it slide faster. The edges of the base are fitted with a steel edge, just a couple millimeters square, which helps the board grab the snow when tipped up on edge. The top of the board typically sports graphics designed by board makers to attract riders to their boards. Flite Snowboards, an early and often underquoted designer, pressed the first closed-molded boards from a garage in Newport, RI in the mid-80's, well before Burton did it. Snowboard topsheet graphics can be a highly personal statement and many riders spend many hours customizing the look of their boards. The base of the board may also feature graphics, often designed to make the manufacturer recognisable in photos.
Snowboard designs differ primarily in:
* Length - Boards for children are as short as 90 centimeters; boards for racers, or "alpine" riders, are as long as 215 cm. Most people ride boards in the 140-165 cm range. It is a myth that the height of the rider dictates the length of the snowboard. Rather, snowboards correspond to the weight of the rider, and a board length should be selected so the rider falls in the middle of the manufacturer's weight range for that model and size. The longer the board, the more stable it is at high speed, but also a bit tougher to control. Another factor riders consider when selecting a snowboard is the type of riding it will be used for, freestyle boards being shorter than all-mountain boards.
* Width - The width is typically measured at the waist of the board, since the nose and tail width varies with the sidecut and taper. Freestyle boards are up to 28 cm wide, to assist with balance. Alpine boards are typically 18-21 cm wide, although they can be as narrow as 15 cm. Most folks ride boards in the 24-25 cm range. Riders with larger feet (US size 10+) may have problems with narrower boards, as they have substantially less surface area along the edges. As a result, a rider's toes and/or heels may extend over the edge of the board, and interfere with the board's ability to make turns once it is set on edge, or 'get hung up on the snow.' This is called toe/heel-drag, and can be cured by either choosing a wider board (26cm or more), adjusting the stance angle, or a combination of the two.
* Sidecut - The edges of the board are symmetrically curved concavely, so that the width at the tip and tail is greater than the center. This curve aids turning and affects the board's handling. The curve has a radius that might be a short as 5 meters on a child's board or as large as 17 meters on a racer's board. Most boards use a sidecut radius between 8-9 meters. Shorter sidecut radii (tighter turns) are generally used for halfpipe riding while longer sidecut radii (wider turns) are used for freeride/alpine/racing riding. The newest development in sidecuts was the introduction of Magne Traction by LibTech which incorporates seven bumps on each side of the board which LibTech speculates will improve edge holding.
* Flex - The flexibility of a snowboard affects its handling and typically varies with the rider's weight. Usually a softer flex makes turning easier while a harder flex makes the board more stable at high speed. There is no standard way to quantify snowboard stiffness, but novices tend to prefer softer flex, racers stiffer flex, and everyone else something in between.
* Tail/nose width - Many freestyle boards have equal nose/tail specs for equal performance either direction. Freeride and alpine boards, however, have a directional shape with a wider and longer nose. Boards designed for powder conditions exaggerate the differences even more for more flotation on the powder.
Snowboard boots come in two main types, soft boots and hard boots. Soft boots look similar to winter boots and have a flexible feel that provides the forgiveness necessary for landing jumps and balancing on rails. Generally, hard boots are used for alpine carving and racing, whereas soft boots are used in freestyle and freeride. Hard boots are very similar to ski boots and provide greater stability, increased control and quicker responsiveness on the snowboard. Hard boots have become less common and are generally only found in more specialist stores.
Snowboard boots differ from other types of boots in that they provide internal support to transfer the rider's movements to the board. Other boots, such as Sorel-style boots, may look like they would work with a snowboard, but are unsuitable for snowboarding.
Though bindings are not strictly part of the snowboard, they are necessary for its use. The bindings are fixed to the board, and hold the booted feet in place using a variety of systems.
There are several types of bindings. Strap-in, step-in, and hybrid bindings are used by most recreational riders and all freestyle riders.
* Strap-in - These are the earliest types of bindings, but are still the most popular and technical. The rider wears a boot which has a thick but flexible sole, and padded uppers. The foot is held onto the board with two buckle straps - one strapped across the top of the toe area, and one across the ankle area. They can be tightly ratcheted closed for a tight fit and good rider control of the board. The downside for this is they take longer to put on, usually requiring the rider to sit in the snow and bend over to adjust the straps. Also, because there are two points of pressure, the strap locations must be adjusted for each individual rider, making it more cumbersome for rental operations. Cap Strap bindings are a recent modification that provide a very tight fit to the heel cup which makes excellent edge control. Such companies as Salomon, Rossignol, Bakoda, Tech Nine, Ride, Flux and Burton have created different models of cap straps.
* Step-in - In response to the inconvenience of strap-in bindings, step-ins were created to make entry easier for beginners, allow for fast ski-lift to slope transition, and appeal to the rental market. Relative to strap-in bindings, step-in bindings use a stiffer shoe sole and boot to maintain responsiveness in compensation for the lack of over the foot restraining straps and (sometimes) lack of binding highback. Step-ins use a technology similar to the clipless pedals in cycling, by allowing the binding to snap and engage stiff hardware on the rider's boots. Popular (and incompatible) step-in systems include Burton, K2 Clicker, Rossignol and Switch. While much more convenient than strap-ins, they are widely considered to be inferior because they do not provide as much of an immediate response from the rider's legs to the board. Another problem is the formation of ice in the step-in mechanism, which may make it difficult to get in and out of the bindings.
* Hybrid - There are also proprietary binding systems that seek to combine the convenience of step-in systems with the control levels attainable with strap-ins. An example is the Flow binding system which is similar to a strap-in binding, except that the foot enters the binding through the back (which then clips into place) rather than the top. The rider's boot is held down by a webbing that covers most of the foot. In 2004, K2 released the Cinch series, a similar hybrid binding; riders slip their foot in as they would a Flow binding, however rather than webbing, the foot is held down by straps which can then be micro-adjusted for superior fit and performance.
* Highback - A stiff moulded support behind the heel and up the calf area. The HyBak was originally designed by inventor Jeff Grell and built by Flite Snowboards. This allows the rider to apply pressure and effect a "heelside" turn.
* Plate - Plate bindings are used with hardboots on Alpine or racing snowboards. Extreme carvers and some Boarder Cross racers also use plate bindings. The stiff bindings and boots give much more control over the board and allow the board to be carved much more easily than with softer bindings. Alpine snowboards tend to be longer and thinner with a much stiffer flex for greater edge hold and better carving performance.
Snowboard bindings, unlike ski bindings, do not automatically release upon impact or after falling over. With skis, this mechanism is designed to protect from injuries (particularly to the knee) caused by skis torn in different directions. Automatic release is not required in snowboarding, as the rider's legs are fixed in a static position and twisting of the knee joint cannot occur to the same extent. Furthermore it reduces the dangerous prospect of a board hurtling downhill riderless, and the rider slipping downhill on his back with no means to maintain grip on a steep slope. Nevertheless, most ski areas require the use of a "leash" that connects the snowboard to the rider's leg or boot, in case the snowboard manages to get away from its rider. This is most likely to happen when the rider removes the board at the top or the bottom of a run (or while on a chairlift, which could be dangerous).
There are two "stances" used by snowboarders. A "regular" stance is one in which the rider's left foot is the front foot, while the right foot is the back foot. "Goofy" is just the opposite - the right foot leads and the left foot is at the back. Most people have a natural stance determined by experimentation, and the two stances are roughly equally common. A good snowboarder should be equally skilled in riding both ways, even if they have a particular preference. Most experienced riders carry a small pocket-tool to make quick, on-the-slope adjustments, including fine-tuning stance width, location, and angles.
Stance width is important because it determines how the rider is balanced on the board. Obviously, the size of the rider has much to do with proper stance width. The usual measurement is to position the bindings so that the feet are placed just wider than shoulder width apart. However, personal preference and comfort are important with regard to this setting, so experimentation is recommended.
As a general rule for choosing the correct stance width, the following rule applies. Freestylers (those who perform tricks and jumps) will have a wide stance because of the level of stability this affords when landing a jump or jibbing a rail. This actually has the drawback of reducing the amount of control the rider has when turning on the piste. (freeriding) Conversely, a narrow stance will give the rider more control when turning on the piste but less stability when freestyling. It is worth noting too that a narrow stance will make the side cut of the board dig in to the snow more when carving meaning that the rider has more grip and is less prone to wash out - especially on ice or steep conditions. Most riders choose somewhere in between these two stance widths with bias to either freestyle or freeride and experimentation is the only way for most riders to find the best stance width for their position by changing one value at a time and riding the same stretch of mountain for comparison.
The question of how much the bindings are angled depends on the rider's purpose and preference.
* Forward stance: Suitable for most purposes, the leading foot is angled roughly 15° to 21° and the trailing foot at 0° to 10°.
* Alpine stance: Used primarily for alpine riding, the leading foot may be from 50° up to around 70° and the trailing foot generally a little less.
* Duck stance: Useful for tricks by removing the forward bias altogether, the feet are angled equally outwards such as 15° and -15°. This stance is becoming increasingly popular, and is the most resilient of the three. The feet do not actually have to be angled equally outwards to be considered duck stance. The back foot simply has to be angled less than zero, i.e. angled toward the back of the board.
When a rider changes direction mid-run (for example a "regular" rider leads with their right foot), they are said to be riding "switch". This is obviously easier with a less biased stance, such as the "duck" stance.
Injuries for snowboarders occur at statistically the same rate as for alpine skiers, and like skiing injuries usually occur when a rider attempts something beyond their abilities. While injuries can occur to any part of the body, a large percentage occurs to the wrist, elbows and shoulders. Snowboard-related injury accounts for 100,000 of the wrist fractures in the world each season. While the best insurance against injury is to head to very gentle slopes and take a step-by-step approach to learning, it can also help to wear a helmet and wrist guards.
A professional lesson, or a day spent with a skilled friend is highly recommended. It is worthy of note that many of the worlds pros began on old equipment, riding on very small hills. Time not money will make a skilled, safe snowboarder. As with learning to ski, professional instruction is a good idea to learn quickly and easily. Beginners should start on very gentle slopes with soft snow conditions, even if they're a good alpine skier.